By Andrew Hawk
When I was earning my bachelor’s degree, we had to complete several assignments based on watching a video of ourselves teaching. Back then, cell phones didn’t have the capability to capture videos. I can remember attaching a camcorder to a tripod and putting it in the corner of my classroom. Sigh. To convert my initial teaching license to a professional license, I was required to complete a video reflection activity. My last year teaching at my first school, the principal required teachers to complete at least one video reflection activity.
The reason for the popularity of this idea is simple. The process of sitting down and watching yourself teach a lesson is enlightening. However, for most people, myself included, it is also excruciatingly uncomfortable. But because of all you can learn about yourself as a teacher, I hope you will give it a try, even if you’re not required to and even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.
Here are a few things you can watch for when viewing your video. I recommend focusing on one to three things at a time. Depending on what you are trying to learn, you may need to watch a video several times.
Are you altering your teaching voice at the appropriate times or droning on in a monotone? I spent years working to overcome my monotonous droning. If you lean toward this side of the spectrum, I can relate to you. There is truly nothing wrong with your voice. But altering your teaching voice does help you gain and maintain students’ attention.
Class Discussion Habits
It is really easy to get into the habit of always calling on the same students during classroom reviews and discussions. Watching a video of yourself teaching can help you ascertain if you have fallen into a rut when calling on students. In addition, pay close attention to the amount of wait time you allow between asking a question and calling on a student. The longer you wait, the more hands you usually get in the air. I used to count to five in my head before calling on a student, but the case could be made to wait even longer.
No teacher can see everything. Even if your class knows you are recording a lesson, you still might see a few things that you missed while teaching. I am not suggesting that you go back and give students consequences after the fact, just that you can be made aware of behaviors you did not know about. You may be surprised with what you learn.
Calculating student engagement is easy. When observing a teacher, every 10 minutes I count how many students are engaged in the lesson. I calculate a percentage, and that is really all there is to it. Maintaining 90 percent engagement or higher should be your goal. Anything below 75 percent is worrisome. If you find yourself regularly coming up with a lower number, reflect on the possible reasons and make a plan to improve your performance.
Regarding classroom climate, ask yourself two questions: What is the climate in my classroom? Is this climate helping me get the most out of my students? It is my belief as both a teacher and an administrator that students learn best in an environment that is relaxed and easygoing.
While all styles of teaching can produce positive results, a teacher must reflect on what makes the biggest impact. Is it when students attend class every day because attendance is required? These students complete everything that is assigned by their teacher because they know they must. On the other hand, is it better if students want to come to class because they feel comfortable with their teacher? In this case, will students take a genuine interest in content material in place of simply meeting requirements?
In both instances, the teacher is likely to get positive results, but I believe the first scenario limits students to doing what is required while the second motivates them to reach their full academic potential.
Refer to whatever rubric is used during your evaluation observations when you watch the video of your lesson. Reflect on the scores you deserve. It is important to be honest and objective. Try to view your lesson through the lens of your administrator. The goal of this exercise is to improve your teaching, and this is one of the best strategies. In addition, it may also help you increase your performance on your next evaluation.
Ask a trusted colleague to review your video and provide you with honest feedback. It is important that you choose carefully when asking someone to do this for you. A close friend may be biased and not provide you with completely candid information. Some people do not like to offer criticism to others, even if it is constructive. The colleague you choose does not have to work at your school. You could even reach out to a former college professor.
Always send home a brief statement prior to recording yourself so parents have a chance to contact you with any questions or concerns. If someone outside your organization will be viewing the video, you should obtain written consent from parents.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.
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